Send In The Clowns
Written by Stephen Sondheim.
Released on the 1975 album Good, Bad But Beautiful.
Another recording that I don't like as much, as the original is on the 1984 album I Am What I Am.
Live recordings have been released on the album Live In Japan '77, and on the video You Ain't Heard Nothing Yet.
Additionally Shirley Bassey has performed this song live in some TV shows 1975/76, and again in the 1980's.
This song is taken from Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical "A Little Night Music". The premiere had been on February 25, 1973, and it ran for two years in New York with 601 performances, plus 406 performances in England. The whole musical is slightly based on a film of Ingmar Bergman from 1955 "Smiles of a Summer Night, a Little Night Music" (Sommarnattens Leende) and as a whole set to 3/4-time (waltz). In 1978 it was made in a not so successful film with Elizabeth Taylor as Desiree.
The story, as often with Stephen Sondheim, is about complicated relationships and set in Sweden around just before 1900 (fin de siecle). To cut the storyline really short: old and new lovers and not so faithful maried people meet each other and fall in and out love which each other.
"Send In The Clowns" is sung as two former lovers once again split up. A widowed lawyer, Frederik, who recently married a very young girl (who after months of marriage still is a virgin) meets again with his old lover, an actress called Desiree. She hopes to regain the love of the lawyer but he rejects her. She sings "send in the clowns...", a phrase used in the circus if anything goes wrong and things must be covered up (if somebody drops from the trapeze or has been bitten by a lion, it's time for the clowns to entertain). Then, after Frederik discovers that his virginbride has eloped with his own son, and a dangerous game of russian roulette, he finds himself once again in the arms of Desiree, and together they sing a reprise of "Send In The Clowns" and decide to stay together.
Stephen Sondheim (born 1930) is a Broadway show composer and lyricist, described not only as the greatest of his generation but as the only great one of his generation.
He's well known and loved for his quite complicated and not so accessible, but beautiful writing.
He got his first big break when he was hired to write lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's score for "West Side Story".
Shirley Bassey has performed songs also from other Sondheim musicals: "West Side Story" (1957), "Gypsy" (1959) and "Follies" (1971).
This song has been performed by many singers.
It was a hit for Judy Collins in 1975; she reached position number 36 in the US Billboard.
The lyrics of "Send in the clowns" were on request of Barbra Steisand extended with extra lines for her "The Broadway Album by Stephen Sondheim". Shirley Bassey didn't need that, she sang the original lines.
Here an excerpt of a "Billboard" review of a 1976 "Greatest Hits" album:
Special thanks to JohnD for sending me much additional information I inserted here.
Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around
Just when I stopped
Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you want what I want
Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing this late